Locala, July 2022, Ocala, FL

Page 1

19

ABBEY SLAVEN

Vougeot & Abbey: Bonding Over Food & Jumping

08

JAY MARTY HERNANDEZ

The Sound of Silence: Entrepreneur Credits Hearing Loss with his Success

11

JENNIFER BURKE

Look to the Stars: Former Addict Focuses on Peace, Love, & Light

Volume 02, Issue No. 02 • JULY 2022


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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

05

Dear Ocala Fresh Start

BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

08

The Sound of Silence: Entrepreneur Credits Hearing Loss with His Success

F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

19

Vougeot & Abbey: Bonding Over Food & Jumping

FROM THE EXPERTS

23

Invest in Rest: Avoiding Leadership Burnout

25

The Inside Track: Get to Know Ocala’s Equine Industry

THE CHEWS LETTER

ON THE COVER

19

31

The Tipping Point: Urban Bakeshop Couple Moves to Horse Country

ARTIST CORNER

37

Couch Sessions: 2022 Series • July Artist Q&A

39

Messenger: Artist Q&A from the Appleton Museum of Art

F R E S H S TA R T

08

11

Look to the Stars: Former Addict Focuses on Peace, Love, & Light

14

A Hard Fall: Gym Manger Recalls His Journey out of Addiction

16

A Twist of Fate: Troubled Teen Goes from the ‘Hood to Under the Hood

F E AT U R E

26

The Mission Doesn’t End: Trauma-Informed Care & Community

GIVERTORIAL

35

Printing Money: Artist-In-Residence Gives Back

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

JODI ANDERSON

Photo by Joshua Jacobs

DEAR OCALA, This month’s theme is one that is near and dear to my heart. In another life, I was a teacher, and my first job was at a Level 6 correctional facility for juvenile males. Every one of my students had experienced trauma on some level, from poverty to domestic and community violence. Mental health resources were scarce at the time; their academic skills were often well below grade level. How could it be surprising that many of them reoffended, violated their parole, or in some other way ended up incarcerated again? The obstacles to success are enormous. But some people do make it out and break the cycle. They find something to live for, like Jennifer Burke on page 11, who found serenity in Soul Essentials of Ocala, Tyler Friend (page 14) fell into an industry that he loves and has been advancing up the ladder, while

Harry Spencer (page 16) started his own business. It takes incredible courage to share personal stories, especially stories like these, because societal judgment is intense. We often punish ex-offenders for a lifetime, barring them from jobs and living spaces. I am so grateful they were willing to open up and put a human face on the issue of criminal justice. Everyone deserves a fresh start. Speaking of fresh starts, we talked to

Jay Marty Hernandez (page 8), who lost his hearing at 13 years old and is now a successful entrepreneur and up-andcoming podcaster. And on page 31, you can read about Orlando and Stacey León; the former custom cake bakeshop owners relocated from New York City during the pandemic and started Baked by Small Batch. We know that good mental health is key to making a fresh start, so our feature is Brandy Forman, LCSW and Sandi Cornell, LMHC of Dignity Counseling (page 26), who provide traumainformed care and work to build a healthy, supportive community. No community is complete without its artists. Head on over to our Artist Q&A section (page 37) and then read about the artist whose sculpture stands in front of the Appleton Museum of Art. We believe that everyone has a story, and even the most marginalized deserve to be able to tell theirs and be heard. I think that is the only way we will recognize our shared humanity and give a chance at a fresh start to someone we might have otherwise dismissed. I hope that these stories leave you with something to think about and maybe inspire you to reach out a helping hand. All My Best,

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BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

The Sound of Silence ENTREPRENEUR CREDITS HEARING LOSS WITH HIS SUCCESS

JAY MARTY HERNANDEZ Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

8

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BREAKING SOCIAL NORMS

“I

magine being locked in a closet, no lights, and you can’t hear. That’s how I felt all of the time,” describes Jay Marty Hernandez. He was just 13 years old when he woke up, and his world had gone silent. Jay grew up in the Bronx with his single mother, who worked hard to provide for her family. The morning he woke unable to hear, no one believed him. Ultimately, it was his mother who trusted him and became the person he leaned on the most. “I was fortunate enough to have the mom that I have. Looking back, now, this is where manifestations started from, because my mom was planting these seeds. She would literally write down notes, ‘If I could give you my ears, I would.’ To this day, that stuck with me so much. My mom kept me strong.”

For a long time, I thought it was wrong or a wrong path that I could have taken or a curse, but it was the best thing that happened to me because it created the person that I am today. — Jay Marty Hernandez

TWO WORLDS

Jay lost his hearing at the end of fifth grade. He spent the summer going to doctor’s visits and working at the restaurant his mother managed, so she could keep him close by. Doctors were concerned his current Bell’s Palsy could be the cause of his hearing loss, but he also had meningitis as a baby. The cause was not determined. After six months in his new world, Jay was placed in a school for the deaf as a seventh grader, skipping the sixth grade due to high test scores. However, Jay felt lost and having grown up in the Projects, he tended to be judgmental toward those who were different, including himself. “I felt like I couldn’t fit in. They tried. They put in effort,” he says. When he began to lose his speech after the first year, Jay was placed back into public school. He was caught between the hearing world and the deaf and hearing-impaired world. He often felt alone and isolated in a room full of people. He was able to have full conversations with a couple of his friends, who learned how to talk so Jay could easily read their lips, but the rest of his world was observed through vibration and sight. “For a long time, I thought it was wrong or a wrong path that I could have taken or a curse, but it was the best thing that happened to me because it created the person that I am today.”

MOVING FORWARD

At 15 years old, Jay received a cochlear implant, and the first time he heard sound, he threw it off. He knew what things were supposed to sound like, but what was coming through the implant were robotic noises. He finally put it back on later that day, and made his first phone call in two years. The two years of silence was difficult for Jay, to say the least, and he questioned himself, God, and life over the reasons why this was happening to him. He kept his hair long for 15 years to simply cover the implant. “I needed to go through those trials and tribulations. I needed to seek within, but it took a long time doing that,” he states.

His season of trials wasn’t over immediately upon hearing, though. At 16, Jay became a father. Determined not to raise his son in the Bronx, he and his son’s mother moved to Miami. Jay worked hard to provide for his family, but after a couple of years, the couple broke up and there was a period of time where he was without his son. Feeling broken, but not beat, Jay moved to Tampa where he slept on a family member’s couch for nearly a year, while he saved enough money to get his own place and get his son back. In 2020, now living in Ocala, Jay started a mobile detailing service. “I studied [marketing and branding for] a year on YouTube. I’m a perfectionist.” It paid off. In less than a year, during a pandemic, Jay grew his business to six figures, and he did what most entrepreneurs only dream about: manage the business instead of working the business. Jay is now focusing on building his video podcasts, which help tell the stories of individuals here in Ocala. “I always thought I was afraid of losing or failing. No, I’m afraid of the unknown.”

LEARN MORE

Listen to Jay’s story with podcast host Johnny Del Valle: bit.ly/johnnydelvalle Instagram: @deafine_podcast @deafine_jay

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CAR ACCIDENT? HISPANIC BUSINESS COUNCIL –ALIANZA HISPANA–

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F R E S H S TA R T

Look to the Stars FORMER ADDICT FOCUSES ON PEACE, LOVE, & LIGHT

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F R E S H S TA R T

JENNIFER BURKE Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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F R E S H S TA R T

J

ennifer “Jen” Burke, owner of Soul Essentials of Ocala, looked like a perfect student. Jen was the president of band and National Honor Society. She had been a cheerleader and a softball player. Her grades were impeccable, and she even graduated a year early. “I was supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer or something big, but I don’t do [well] in our mainstream world. On the outside, I always looked like I fit in, but on the inside, I never felt like I could fit in anywhere. “I had to be drunk or high to be in that world,” Jen states. “I’d say from 9 to 29, I was hell on wheels.”

REBELLION AND FREEDOM

Her first act of true rebellion started as any innocent child’s action might: She cut her extremely long, blonde hair and permed it. But Jen’s rebellious phase didn’t stop there. “It started out with boys and alcohol and pot.” By the time she was in middle school, Jen was experimenting with heavier drugs. She was only 17 when she began using heroine. She also developed an eating disorder—something that went hand-in-hand with her desire for control. Jen’s addictions and the consequences of that life became increasingly more difficult throughout the years. First, it was heroine, then methadone clinics and a series of detox and rehab facilities in Florida and around the country. “You get really, really sick. You say you’ll never do it again, and then, you go do it again. It’s a horrible, vicious cycle, and I did that for a decade. “I had this idea when I was young that I wanted freedom. No rules. No responsibilities. I thought [my life choices were] the way to have freedom. Unfortunately, I was very wrong.”

THE FALL

She wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 27, or so Jen thought. “I thought I was going to die a junkie death. I had resigned myself to it. My best friend ended up dying when she was 27. I was 25 at the time. That was one of the hardest things that ever happened. I kind of lost it after that. I had a lot of survivor’s guilt.” Jen landed in another detox facility and found herself in a relationship with— as she describes him—“the biggest, baddest druggy” in the facility. It was a toxic relationship that would change the course of her life. “In a fight one night, I ended up going off a balcony. I broke my back. I tried to get up and run to get away, but I couldn’t move anything below my waist. He ended up picking me up and throwing me over his shoulder, which is the worst thing to do for a back injury.” Jen’s boyfriend threw her into the back of a truck, driving past several hospitals before leaving her at one. “It was surreal. I don’t remember a lot at this point.” She was in and out of consciousness as she detoxed in preparation for her back surgery. Two months later, Jen had two rods, five discs, and 10 screws holding her spine together. However, the hospital chose to place her back on methadone after the surgery—a decision Jen still doesn’t understand. Later, she would become addicted to pain pills, and when those were no longer working well enough, she added alcohol. Eventually, she had three DUI’s from three different counties. When she was arrested for her third, she was out on bail for the second one, and the paperwork hadn’t caught up across the county lines. So, Jen was released. “It was God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I hate jail. I thought life was bad out here. I have a hard time with our society. I have a lot of anxiety. Jail is way worse.”

PEACE, LOVE, AND LIGHT

Her attorney and her parents strongly advised Jen to enter a long-term rehabilitation facility, but she did not want to go to another one. “I called a suicide

hotline that night. The lady on the call asked me what I had been running from all these years.” Nobody had ever asked her that throughout any of her treatment. It was the first step in Jen’s recovery. Eventually, she came to a facility in Ocala where she attended an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group and found a therapist who truly connected with her. She also found a love of crystals, and just four days from her one-year sober day, Jen got the store, Soul Essentials of Ocala, which is still open 16 years later. She found incredible happiness and peace for the first 10 years. But her health declined due to a brain tumor, followed by a series of unfortunate events, including more health issues and a fire. However, she can cope with stress much better these days, and she is still very active with AA. “Now, my philosophy is you must keep up with your responsibilities in order to keep your freedom. I focus on what I create. I do better when I look at stars, kitty cats, flowers, and good stuff. “All the horrible things [I’ve gone and] go through, I hope I go through them so nobody else has to.”

LEARN MORE

Soul Essentials of Ocala 805 E Ft. King Street (352) 236-7000 soulessentialsofocala.com

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F R E S H S TA R T

A Hard Fall

GYM MANAGER RECALLS HIS JOURNEY OUT OF ADDICTION

TYLER FRIEND Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

14

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F R E S H S TA R T

T

yler Friend (26) is tall, lean, and professional and greets strangers with ease. His positive attitude is infectious, but the person he is now is a more recent development for him. Tyler began his life as what he would call “a good kid.” He got good grades in school and played sports. However, in ninth grade, his mental health began to decline. He had been experiencing some problems at home, which left him feeling isolated. He quit playing sports, still managing to keep up his grades, but he then started hanging out with the wrong crowd and skipping school. He eventually dropped out. He had lost his dad and spent a great deal of time with his grandparents. “I just felt angry at the world based off of [my] circumstances. I went from a good kid to a teenager with no guidance—somebody who just was able to do whatever he wanted. I started to get high and do drugs and stuff. Then, you look at everything as if you can make money off of it, right? Well, I started doing that. “I’m doing all these things, and in my head I’m telling myself that everything’s okay. I’m making myself believe that there’s no wrong way to do right, and you need to do this for yourself. You need to take care of yourself, because I felt alone. That was a big thing. I tricked myself into believing that I needed to do that in order to get the places or things that I wanted. It was just a big lie.”

TAILSPIN

“It continued to get progressively worse, like the natural disease of addiction. You don’t care because you’re blinded. That’s what a distraction is. It’s a distraction that if you continue to let it distract you, it will consume you. “I started to lose relationships with the family. I started to become more distant. Drugs became an everyday occurrence.” As Tyler was spinning out of control, the most important man in his life, his grandfather, became ill. He went to see him in the hospital one last time, “but before that, I didn’t see him at all for a really long time because I was taking for granted that he would be there. I learned a lesson with that. Losing him is what opened my eyes.” Being on drugs had become the new normal, “but there [are] times where you’re having fun, and then there [are] times that you want to stop and you absolutely can’t. You just feel like you’re not in control of your life.” The night before his grandfather’s funeral, Tyler got arrested. He sat in jail for 90 days before he was released on probation. He had missed the funeral. “I really made a big mistake. Now, I’ve got this shame and guilt. I have a desire to want to change. I want to do something about it, but mentally, based off the behaviors for the past eight years, [my brain] is telling me [drugs are] what you’re supposed to be doing. What I was doing overpowered my desire to want to change. I was miserable for the next 40 days. I went out there and did the same thing. Every single day was absolutely terrible, but I just couldn’t quit. I actually overdosed during that time.”

CLIMB TO THE TOP

His cousin found him and called an ambulance. Tyler’s brother raced to the hospital, actually beating the ambulance there. When Tyler woke up, he began to see life a little differently. “I started to realize that this is the influence that you are in people’s lives. This is what you’re doing to people’s family. You’re destroying people. I know that was my influence. It’s not what I wanted to be. That’s not what I wanted to do, but that was the influence that happened. That really stuck out to me.” Tyler began to understand he wanted to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. As his brother stood by him, Tyler found he was not able to lie to himself or to his brother. “I looked at him. He’s just standing there looking at me. [I said], ‘I want to go to treatment.’”

Tyler’s sister was in the room, too, and after he uttered those words, she took out her phone and took a picture of Tyler in the hospital bed. He still carries the image on his phone as a reminder to himself at how hard he had to fall to begin his climb to the top. Once out of the hospital, Tyler turned himself in to his parole officer and told him that he wanted to go into treatment. “I ended up getting arrested that day. Thank God. “I openly admitted to God that I needed help. I just wanted to change. I prayed that I could go to treatment, and I prayed that everything was going to be alright.” Tyler spent seven months in jail before he went to treatment. While in treatment, he completed his GED, and his counselor helped him to get a job mopping floors at Zone Health & Fitness. At first, Tyler’s confidence was very low. He worked hard but kept his eyes lowered. The more he was immersed in the positive environment, the more confident and stronger he felt within. Now, nearly four years later, he is a manager. “I just love the industry. It helps with so many things. The world we live in has a very unfortunate side, but there is a very good side of the world, too. It’s cool to be able to walk through that and be on the opposite side of it.”

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F R E S H S TA R T

A Twist of Fate TROUBLED TEEN GOES FROM THE ‘HOOD TO UNDER THE HOOD

HARRY SPENCER Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON

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F R E S H S TA R T

H

arry Spencer (Spencer to his friends) is a 31-year-old, respected business owner, fiancé, and loving father of twin boys. So, it’s hard to imagine he would have just been getting out of jail, if it wasn’t for a twist of fate. “I grew up in the ‘hood. My parents, they did the best they could for what they had. It was a little rough.”

CAUSE AND EFFECT

When Spencer was about 12 years old, he began “hanging out with 16- or 17-yearolds. I was hanging out with an age group that I had no business being around.” Spencer’s first arrest was for three counts of burglary, two counts of grand theft, and one count of petty theft. He was 13 years old when a hurricane hit Ocala in 2004, leaving homes empty. “I got coached to go break into some homes with these older kids. I just let them lead, and I followed, essentially. I ended up taking the rap for a lot of stuff I didn’t even do.”

I cried my eyes out that night, and I prayed to God if there’s a way that I can make it out of this, I will change. — Harry Spencer

Before being sent to a boot camp, Spencer spent a few months in the juvenile detention center. “I tried to escape. I actually made it outside all the way to the fence,” but Spencer admits that being in the detention center was like being at a daycare compared to the boot camp. “They put you through the ringer there. They pushed you to your physical limit every day,” he states. In order to go home, the inmates would need to complete three marathons— three, five, and eight miles—within a specific time frame. “If you stopped, fell down, or stopped to throw up, it would add 30 days.” Besides the strict physical regime, Spencer witnessed a lot of abuse, including arms being broken and heads being slammed into the concrete floor by the corrections officers, who called themselves the “boom squad.” The facility has since closed down. A six-month program turned into a year for Spencer, mostly due to his behavior. His parents moved the family to the other side of town to help him stay on the straight and narrow. As part of his probation, he had to attend the Silver River Marine Institute. Spencer kept his head down and nose clean. After his release, he attended a local public high school as a junior, even though he was only 15 years old at the time. However, due to his background, he was regularly harassed by the principal who insisted on searching him everyday and pulled him out of class numerous times to accuse him of incidents of which Spencer had no knowledge. After two months, Spencer left high school to obtain his GED.

INTO THE FIRE

Spencer stayed out of trouble for a while, but eventually he fell back into old patterns. “I lived every day like I was in the Wild West. I was money hungry. It was bad. I thought I was going to be in prison for the rest of my life, or I wasn’t going to see 21.” During an incident where Spencer was simply there to stand as backup, bullets started flying. “Next thing I know, we’re in a full-blown shootout on the side of [State] Highway 200, right next to the Bonefish Grill.” His original charges were three counts of attempted murder, possession of firearms, and shooting into occupied dwellings. He was about to turn 16 years old, which made him fair game to be tried as an adult. His public defender told him to plead guilty, and he would only get 15 years. “I cried my eyes out that night, and I prayed to God if there’s a way that I can make it out of this, I will change.”

Fortunately, his mother had received a large sum of money from back taxes and was able to hire an attorney. Instead of 15 years, Spencer only spent about 24 months in prison, with three of those months on probation, and he was determined to uphold his promise to God. During the last six months in a detention center, Spencer studied carpentry. He graduated from the program with a 4.0 GPA and came out with a $5,000 scholarship and acceptance into the University Technical Institute in Orlando. His parole officer, unbeknownst to Spencer, worked on getting him another $5,000 scholarship. He graduated college at 19 and returned home shortly after his 21st birthday, when his father passed away. Spencer stayed in Ocala to take care of his mom and sister and, eventually, saved up enough to buy them a home. In 2019, he opened Spencer’s Auto & Diesel Repair Services. Before opening his business, he met his now fiancée, and he is the proud parent of twin boys (about 22 months). Spencer thinks about how he would have just been getting out of prison at this age, if he had taken a plea deal with the public defender, and he is so grateful for the life he has now. “If you don’t want to change and you don’t want to do better, you’ll never do better. You have to want it as bad as you want to breathe, or you will never turn your life around.”

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FRA O RMT ITSHT E CPOARDNDEO RC K

Couch Sessions Vougeot & Abbey 2022 SERIES • JUNE Q&A BONDING OVER FOODARTIST & JUMPING

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Scott & Kimber Davis • Ryan Neumann

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Nate Mercado • Aaron Thomas

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Macey Mac • Jessica Carter

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Jeff Jarrett • Melissa Ann Taricic www.couchsessionsocala.com

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F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

ABBEY SLAVEN Story by LISA ANDERSON

20

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Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS


F R O M T H E PA D D O C K

O

cala resident Abbey Slaven (27) began riding horses at the age of 3 years old. "Horses have been all around an amazing part of my life." She began riding after a preschool friend invited her to participate in their family's summer camp and lessons for kids. After moving to Ocala around the age of 6, Abbey attended the Marion Saddle Club (MSC) Horse Shows. "That was like the highlight of my childhood—going to those shows. As I got older, I started to branch out. I started riding with different trainers." Abbey eventually gravitated towards jumpers. "I've shown everything up to Grand Prix. It's been neat getting to travel and see the world in a different way with the horses."

I CALL HIM SQUISHY

Vougeot entered life with Abbey about seven years ago. "Vougeot is my Grand Prix horse. He's a really big character," Abbey chuckles. "He's just a wonderful partner. He's amazing, and he tries so hard. He loves people food. He eats anything: pizza, donuts, french fries, milk shakes. He'll eat salad. It doesn't matter what it is. He loves food. I think it's just the novelty of being fed something he shouldn't be having." He's even been known to steal a banana from the tack room, leaving someone without their snack, but Vougeot was not always the character he is now. This took a lot of work on his part, but mostly, the work had to come from Abbey. When Abbey first bought him, "he had no personality. He hated people. He didn't have good training. They were really mean to him. He just got really internalized in his shell. When I got Vougeot, he was really good at competition, but anything outside of that, he was so difficult. It got to the point where I wanted to sell him. I was frustrated." However, Vougeot got injured around the time Abbey was having these thoughts, and he would require a year to rehab. "I ended up doing a total pivot with my riding and doing some self-discovery. I had gotten a little burnt out, a little too competitive, and I kinda had the 20-year-old attitude." Around the same time, Shawna Lewis entered Abbey's life and introduced her to Dressage Naturally with Karen Ralph. "Karen does a wonderful sportorientated program, but with a natural side," explains Abbey. "It helps you learn and communicate with your horse better and build the trust and relationship that a lot of partnerships lack. Shawna started helping me, and Vougeot, and I actually learned that it was more-so me that needed help than it was him. Learning to take a step back and communicate and build that trust has changed every facet of my riding. Horses have helped me from a business perspective as well."

HORSE FARM TO GOLF CARTS

For about 10 years, Abbey had a professional farm but sold it last year. She stepped down to the amateur

riding level. "I went from full-time career in horses to now being an entrepreneur." She started a technical platform that verifies if contractors are licensed and have insurance. She works with her parents’ pool company, and she and her boyfriend recently started a custom golfcart business. Abbey also started working with wild mustangs a few years ago, and when the farm sold, she kept two of the mustangs and Vougeot. She works a lot with the Equine Initiative, so the mustangs make appearances downtown regularly. "They trail ride. They jump. They've gone barrel racing. They

do obstacle challenges. They go Western. They go English. Amazing ponies." Vougeot and Abbey can still be seen training together and participating in shows at the World Equestrian Center. "My horses keep me sane. I always prioritize coming out to the barn and riding. I usually ride first thing to start my day off, and then I go into the office and work until super late. It starts my day off right. "I tried to back off and focus on work, but it just wasn't working. My life without horses, I just don't know what that is."

LEARN MORE

cwatchcorporation.com jbgolfcartsocala.com aqualitypoolserviceinc.com

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FROM THE EXPERTS

Invest in Rest

AVOIDING LEADERSHIP BURNOUT Story by DR. MANAL FAKHOURY

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ABOUT DR. MANAL FAKHOURY For the past 35 years, Manal has been making a difference in Ocala with hard work, generosity, and outstanding leadership. Visit: myfli.com or vestechpartners.com

are passionate about. Much like at the gym, it is a moment where your mind and body can reflect. The heart and soul of a person rekindles, too. People tend to go do the things they love when they make the time! As a leader, we need to rest, so we can build our leadership muscles, reflect, and follow our passion. When you do this on a routine basis, you will not burn out; your leaders and team will know they must carry the torch in your absence. A recent quote that I came across and struck me is “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” Resting is one of the most important investments you can make.

Photo by Popartic/DepositPhotos.com

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nvesting time is an important part of leadership, conclude many business leaders I have consulted. There are meetings, community events, leadership training, conferences, and events to attend, but many people don’t do one of the most important things: invest in rest. Life is busy, and taking time to rest is not always at the top of our priorities. I think of myself as a highly productive person, but I understand that there must be clear boundaries for work, family, community, and self. If I don’t take care of myself through rest, I will not be able to keep up my productive life. Resting is an investment in yourself. It allows you to recalibrate, refocus, and rejuvenate. Resting doesn’t mean you need to take two weeks off and fly to some tropical island, though that does sound amazing. Taking a moment to reflect is generally best done when you step away from a situation or environment. Reflection allows you to see things from a different angle, have a new perspective, or get a flow of new ideas to move forward. Let’s take some examples from another area of our life that supports the investment of rest. When you work out, your body needs recovery time. Just like the muscles in your body recover and get stronger through rest, your leadership muscles do the same. Taking time away from the hustle and bustle of a busy life also allows you to see the things you

Photo submitted by Dr. Manal Fakhoury

FROM THE EXPERTS


FROM THE EXPERTS

The Inside Track GET TO KNOW OCALA’S EQUINE INDUSTRY Story by CYNTHIA MCFARL AND

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hether you’re one of the many newcomers to Ocala or you have lived in Marion County for years, unless you know someone in the equine industry, it can be challenging to understand exactly what makes our area the “Horse Capital of the World®.”

Photo bycallipso_art/DepositPhotos.com • Thanks to Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association for the latest Thoroughbred industry figures. Horse Capital of the World® is the registered trademark of the FTBOA.

THOROUGHBRED INFLUENCE

There are four major epicenters of Thoroughbred breeding and training in the entire world. Ocala/Marion County is one of those. Rich Strike, the 80-1 long shot, who recently won the Kentucky Derby, was foaled in Kentucky but got his early training right here in Ocala at Mayberry Farm. “More than 15,000 Thoroughbreds train annually in Florida, thanks to the mild winters, grasses rich with limestone, and spring-fed aquifers,” notes Tammy Gantt, Associate Vice President of Member Services & Events for Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA). Each year, many young Thoroughbreds sell at Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company (OBS). At the Spring Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, held April 19-22, 2022, 710 horses sold for a record total of $92,070,000. Five horses sold for $1 million or more.

WORLD-CLASS FACILITIES

This area is known for more than racehorses. Marion County is home to one of the world’s most diverse population of breeds and disciplines. See them in action at World Equestrian Center (WEC), the largest indoor/outdoor equestrian facility in the world. This magnificent venue is a huge draw for equestrians and guests alike. Stop by, dine at one of several eateries, and walk around the picturesque facility.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Perhaps the best way to gain insider knowledge about Marion County’s equine industry is to sign up for a 3-½ hour tour with Karen Grimes of Farm Tours of Ocala. “I’ve had everyone from Olympic equestrian riders to Ocala newcomers on the tours,” says Grimes, who has been leading these small, behind-the-scenes tours for 15 years. “It’s a win-win for everyone. The farms love sharing their horses, and the people on the tours get access to great farms.”

MARION COUNTY EQUINE FACTS AND FIGURES • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Acres devoted to horses: 195,000+ Thoroughbred farms: 750+ Breeds represented: 50+ Horses/ponies: 80,000 Thoroughbreds specifically: 37,290 County overall equine impact: $2.3 billion Florida overall equine impact: $11.7 billion Florida equine industry jobs: 113,000 Marion County Thoroughbred industry jobs: 21,000 Florida-bred winners of Triple Crown races: 15 Florida-bred Kentucky Derby winners: 6 Florida-bred winners of Breeders’ Cup races: 30 Florida-bred millionaires: 177

LEARN MORE

farmtoursofocala.com worldequestriancenter.com/ocala-fl obssales.com ftboa.com

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The

Mission Doesn't End Trauma-Informed Care & Community Story by LISA ANDERSON

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ignity Counseling greets visitors with a small hallway and big smiles. Brandy Forman, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and Sandi Cornell, LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor) are warm and inviting. Both felt a calling to help other people, but the paths they took to get where they are today were winding.

BRANDY “When I was little, my mother [was] a nurse, but she [also] taught parenting classes. That was one of her things, and she would include me. I was kind of the guinea pig,” Brandy chuckles. “She would show other parents how to use behavioral techniques, and I just thought it was fun playing with all the other kids. “When I started getting older, she would let me come with her on home visits. She was a little unconventional in that sense, but it was the Seventies. I began to see

Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS

people living in all kinds of different environments— besides my middle-class, Ocala life. [I got to] watch my mom’s compassion and how she cared for people. So, it just got ingrained in me at an early age that’s what we’re to do as humans. We’re supposed to help each other and learn from each other. [It was] this really cool philosophy instilled at an early age that we really are all related. We’re all brothers and sisters. “My dad’s an attorney, and I think from him I got this side of being analytical and logical and a strong sense of advocacy. So, those two combined must have formed my personality,” concludes Brandy. Her first interaction with a therapist was with Catherine “Biddy” Farner. Brandy was 15 years old at the time. “My family’s divorced, and both parents remarried. So, a blended family. We needed some family therapy. We were going through some struggles,” she explains.

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“[Biddy] was so compassionate [and] sharp and [was] a great advocate. She didn’t take any crap, but she was also so gentle. She was an LCSW. I never knew what that meant until I met her. That always stuck with me, because she made such an impact and showed me just because things have always been one way doesn’t mean they will always continue to be that way.” Brandy didn’t dive right into social work. Instead, she began with International Studies and then moved to Montana, where she focused on Native American Studies with a plan to go into law. She eventually moved back to Florida. “When I came back, I was kind of to this point where you’re in an existential crisis,” she recalls. Ultimately, Brandy landed in social work. She spent time working at PACE Center for Girls and Hospice of Marion County and with the homeless. “There’s been a big mix. I decided I was ready to go into administrative work, and that’s when I was hired as the manager for the Center for Life at Interfaith [Emergency Services].”

SANDI “The first day I met Brandy, I told her, ‘One day we’re going to do something.’ She just kind of looked at me like I had five heads,” Sandi says with a slight smile. Before meeting Brandy, Sandi spent 30 years as a dental lab technician. She had returned to school for nursing but found herself in occupational therapy. However, the path she thought she was taking turned out not be the one she was meant to follow.

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“God kept intervening,” Brandy explains. “Yes,” agrees Sandi. “Telling me I was in the wrong spot. I fought with Him. Well...” She pauses. “Here we are. But you know what? I think He did it so I could heal, because once I healed, then I could help other people heal because I was there, too.” “There is one thing about clients, they know if you’re a fraud. They can tell if you learned it in a book or if you’re legit. They’ll call you on it. People wonder, ‘Can you relate to me? Yes, you have book smarts, but have you lived it?’ People generally don’t care what you know. They want to know how are you going to treat them and can you handle them.” “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman.

I always wanted to be a helper. I think that’s why [I chose] the dental field because I was helping people.” Sandi spent the first year of her internship at the Heart of Florida Youth Ranch. “That’s when Josh [Sarmiento] was really getting his Ignite Community Counseling going. He wanted someone to volunteer over at Interfaith, and that’s where I met Brandy,” states Sandi.

BUILDING A TEAM “I had been working in administration at that point,” Brandy clarifies. “I’ll tell you something cool about Sandi: She drove from Orlando to work at Interfaith for free. Even when her internship ended, she kept coming, because she didn’t want to let


her clients down. I have tremendous respect for her because of that.” That respect grew when both Brandy and Sandi were frequently escorted by a major at the Ocala Police Department to the homeless camps throughout the area. They began to build a rapport with the people, and by the time Brandy and Sandi were recruited to develop a free community counseling program (FreeD.O.M. Counseling Services) by FreeD.O.M. Clinic USA, clients were ready to come in. During their time at FreeD.O.M. Counseling Services, the team really began to work in harmony. Both were, and still are, passionate about putting the clients first. They practiced trauma-informed care and made sure anyone working with them—from the interns to the janitorial staff—was trained to know the signs of someone who is being triggered. They saw tremendous results at the clinic. Brandy was the Director and worked alongside Sandi, who was the Clinical Lead— both providing direct client care and supervising clinical staff and interns. After only 18 months, the clinic was regularly seeing approximately 200 clients per month for counseling. “That’s in addition to all the clients we saw for other support services, like recovery coaching and therapeutic management, which is unheard of when you are looking at the population we were working with!” exclaims Brandy. Unfortunately, politics overcame the mission, and the funding for their program was cut, despite exceeding every goal they had set. “It was a big heartbreak for us when that stopped, but what we both felt like was just because that program stopped doesn’t mean the mission ends,” says Brandy. “After the FreeD.O.M. [program] closed, I got sick and had a brain tumor. Sandi started scrambling to find places like free clinics and different places that would let her hang out her shingle and bring people in. All so clients weren’t going completely without services. “I am so grateful that Sandi kept working the way she did, because I couldn’t for a while. It’s been the most amazing thing to be back here with her.”

DIGNITY COUNSELING Once Brandy had recovered from the brain tumor, she wanted to dip her toe into the water, and she reached out to Wear Gloves to volunteer one or two days a week. Wear Gloves had other plans and asked her to build a program called Dignity House, but when Brandy’s savings ran dry and there was still no funding for the program, she finally fulfilled Sandi’s prediction and joined her at her new office. With a nod to all the good Wear Gloves does for the community, Brandy and Sandi formed Dignity Counseling, PLLC. Passion, respect, and heart are evident in everything Brandy and Sandi do at Dignity Counseling. It’s hard to leave the office without feeling a sense of warmth and comfort. “We really see it as building community,” Brandy expounds. “We’re responsible for each other.”

ABOUT “Mental health counseling services are provided in a safe, judgment-free environment. All treatment is tailored to each individual’s needs. We offer talk therapy, EMDR, and Neurofeedback.” Brandy and Sandi plan to expand their clinic to offer both free and paid services. To learn more about their mission and how you can help and to see the services they offer, visit their website. Contact them to learn more about their Counselor’s Breakfast and the free weekly group therapy. P: (352) 362–4078

|

W: dignitycounseling.net

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THE CHEWS LETTER

The Tipping Point URBAN BAKESHOP COUPLE MOVES TO HORSE COUNTRY

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THE CHEWS LETTER

ORLANDO & STACEY LEÓN Story by CYNTHIA MCFARL AND

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Photos by JOSHUA JACOBS


THE CHEWS LETTER

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arch 2020. Two weeks to flatten the curve. How well we remember. Weeks stretched into months. Businesses were deemed “essential” and “nonessential.” It was an especially grim time for family-owned operations. “When COVID hit, that shut down our entire business. We assumed it would reopen in a month or two, and then it continued on and on. The truth is, in New York, the shutdown lasted for months and months,” says Stacey León. For nearly 15 years, Orlando and Stacey León owned and operated Butterfly Bakeshop, a custom cake bakery in Manhattan. They specialized in high-end wedding and celebration cakes, fantastical creations that Orlando designed and decorated. They lived a big city life in the fast-paced world of trendy restaurants and venues. Then came 2020. With weddings and event venues shuttered and no demand for custom cakes, the Leóns sought other baking options to create income. “We were out of business for 1 ½ years and had to let employees go. When our business was shut down, we pivoted,” says Stacey. “Orlando came up with several recipes for Boozy Brownies and people loved them. Eventually, we started selling them as an online bakery, along with cookies and cake jars.”

EARLY DAYS

Food has been the common language for Sandy and Orlando from the beginning. Stacey, a New York native, attended culinary school and earned a degree in food service management. She went on to work in restaurants and hotels and was one of the first women in New York City to be food and beverage director of a major hotel. She also worked as general manager for a prominent caterer. Orlando is far more than a skilled pastry chef and cake artist. When he immigrated to America from Colombia in 1980, he initially went to school for photography. “I needed a job while going to school and ended up working at the River Café in New York City, a very renowned restaurant. I totally fell in love with food and cooking, so the photography dream turned to food,” recalls Orlando. “I also worked with a talented Japanese chef who took me under his wing. I learned from him and other chefs; I had many influences,” notes Orlando, adding that he initially worked as a savory chef before developing his flair for pastry and sweet creations. Orlando and Stacey just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in May. No surprise, it was food that brought them together. They met through a mutual friend in the late Eighties, and in 1990 he started working at the hotel restaurant she was managing. The couple launched Butterfly Bakeshop in 2010, capitalizing on the perfect combination of skills. “I had the ‘front of the house’ and marketing business perspective, while Orlando owns the nitty-gritty part of what the guests see and taste,” says Stacey.

FLORIDA-BOUND

Right before the pandemic struck, Stacey’s parents and her aunt both purchased homes in Ocala, which they had visited in the past and loved, because it wasn’t like Miami. Orlando’s mother, who lived in New York, was also on the search for a warmer place to call home. The “tipping point” came when Orlando and Stacey’s daughter Tallulah made the decision to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. “Our daughter was going to be here, and both our families had moved to Ocala,” says Stacey. “Everything we did in New York was custom-made, and we couldn’t sustain that with the COVID shutdowns, so in September 2021, we officially moved to Ocala.” Until they were able to get in their own house, the couple rotated between living with family and in various Airbnb houses. “We’ve been in a state of flux the last two years,” says Stacey, adding that they are thrilled to be living in a real house now. “I’ve always lived in an apartment, ever since I was born in Bogotá and always in New York,” says Orlando. “I love having

space to cook and eat outside now. I’m excited to have a grill and am learning to smoke meats.” “We were used to such an urban environment. People who live here don’t even realize how lucky they are,” says Stacey. “I tell friends back in New York I now live in free Florida!”

BACK IN THE KITCHEN

Manhattan’s loss is definitely Ocala’s gain. Currently, Orlando and Stacey are baking out of a rented commercial kitchen at Let’s Eat Fresh, near downtown Ocala. They are also renovating a bakery in the same area with the intention of opening a small retail operation. For now, their Baked by Small Batch goods can be purchased at The Juniper General Store on U.S. Highway 27. They’ve also been doing some pop-up dinners there. Having been in the food industry for so long, the couple has much to offer, and they’re open to doing private catering. “We’re going to look for opportunities to see how we can bring our skills to fit in and be part of the community. Ocala is growing. There are more people looking for food experiences, and we hope to be part of that,” says Stacey. “There are so many possibilities. We’re starting a new journey in a totally new place.”

LEARN MORE

bakedbysmallbatch.com

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2022 Series

sponsor

PASSPORTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE! Get VIP access to all four shows, meet-and-greet with the artists before each show and receve Couch Session Bucks as a voucher to purchase an artist piece.

2022 Schedule & Featured Artists June

03 July

08 August

05 September

02

Scott & Kimber Davis Ryan Neumann Nate Mercado Aaron Thomas Macey Mac Jessica Carter Jeff Jarrett Melissa Ann Taricic

Visit couchsessionsocala.com to purchase your passport or individual show tickets.


Printing Money ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE GIVES BACK

PHOTO BY LISA ANDERSON

T

eddy Sykes (34) is a business application programmer and IT specialist, but he is mostly known for his art and his role at Fine Arts For Ocala (FAFO). As an adult, his first big debut in the art world was during the very first season of Couch Sessions. However, his love for art and computer games started in his childhood. “I’ve always been super keen on art. Even as a kid, I was always doodling,” states Teddy. He was also quite mesmerized by computer games. “I was a huge nerd as a kid. I played card games all the time—all the collectors’ cards, Pokemon, all that junk. I was on the computer 24/7 playing video games. “I remember the first art award I won in first grade. The Unique Award is what they called it. I remember very specifically we had to do something unique, and I did a cactus Christmas tree,” he chuckles. “That was super cool. My mom especially loved it and encouraged it. That was kind of the kickoff of art and music for me.” Teddy went on to win more awards and submit is work to as many competitions as he could. “Every opportunity past fourth grade that I could take an art class in school, I did.” He was in middle school the first time he submitted his work for FAFO. “They have the big student section. I had something in FAFO, which is kind of full circle now, because I’m on the board

of FAFO. So, I get to kind of help foster that for kids now, which is super cool.” He took art very seriously in high school after an art teacher encouraged him to do so. When it came time to decide on a career, it was really a toss up between something in computers or art. Computers won, and art took a backseat until his mid-twenties. He dabbled in black and white illustration and watercolor, and now he primarily paints acrylic portraits. “I’m sort of a full-time artist. [My job] pays for bills; the other pays for pizza and beer.” His art journey has been an upward spiral since he picked it back up again. “As I did more art, I got better at it and people started noticing. Then, people started wanting art from me,” and they were willing to pay. “I feel incredibly privileged, as an artist, because I feel like I get to print money.” Teddy is a full-time resident at the Magnolia Art Exchange. His primary role as a board member of FAFO is leading the Emerging Artist program—a program that helps artists take their first leap into a festival. LEARN MORE FAFO.org | tsykesart.com | IG: @tsykes_art

S P ONS ORED BY LO CAL A IN CO N J UNCTIO N W ITH CO UCH SE SSIO N S


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Call 352.351.1606 or visit us at 500 NE 9th Street Ocala, FL 34470

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ARTIST CORNER

Couch Sessions 2022 SERIES • JULY ARTIST Q&A

JULY 8

Nate Mercado • Aaron Thomas

AUGUST 5

Macey Mac • Jessica Carter

SEPTEMBER 2

Jeff Jarrett • Melissa Ann Taricic www.couchsessionsocala.com

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ARTIST CORNER

NATE MERCADO LIVE

What type of an artist are you? I started off as a musician listening to blues and southern rock. I played in a local alternative rock/new metal band in my early twenties. Thereafter, I got into pop music and became a student of radio-style writing compositions. Over the past three years, I have been incorporating country flavor into my original music. I don't define myself as a particular style of artist. I infuse multiple genres into my writing and music to be as true to myself as possible.

Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? Eighty percent of my original music is compiled from real life situations or profound thoughts. The other 20 percent is fun and catchy. What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I work full time as a driver doing delivery and setup options for a fantastic local company called Rent R RV - Rescue Rentals LLC".

How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? Every so often, I'll have someone contact me and let me know that a particular song I wrote really hit home for them. To be able to write openly and for people to be able to translate my music to their personal life is an accomplishment for me. If just one person takes something positive from it, my work is worth the labor of love. How can we support you? Facebook platform: Nate Mercado LIVE 2022

Photos by Alainey Craig

What types of art and culture do you like to consume? Finally, an easy question. Anything local and……TACOS!

AARON THOMAS What type of an artist are you? Self-taught. I'm not really defined by a specific style or genre. What types of art and culture do you like to consume? I enjoy art and culture from all over the world in various styles and mediums. I grew up in a wildly multicultural environment, and this greatly influenced my taste and openness.

How can we support you? Show up. Support and buy local art.

Is there a connection between your message and the way you make your art? I use art as a vehicle for personal development for myself and others. The message is clear: Grow your own wings! This is meant to encourage people to make their own way and invent ways to see the beauty through the chaos of this world. Selfeducation and a lifelong love for learning are the keys to creating an enjoyable life.

How do you define success as an artist or person? What do you hope to accomplish? By impacting other people's lives in a positive way. I hope to accomplish bringing the magic of art to those who can truly benefit from it

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Photo by Nicole Upton

What are you besides an artist? How do you define your role in life? I'm a two-time combat veteran, child welfare expert, and a father to five beautiful children. My role in life is to protect others, especially children.


ARTIST CORNER

Messenger ARTIST Q&A FROM THE APPLETON MUSEUM OF ART Story & Photo by VANESSA SCOTT

Photo by Vanessa Scott, Sally Rogers. “Messenger.” 1999. Stainless steel, granite, cast glass, architectural bronze, 90 x 96 x 48 in. Museum purchase with funds from the Florida Art in State Buildings Program. • Photo by Ralph Demilio

architectural bronze. The materials age over time, but can be cleaned up to remove the effects of environmental stresses.

S

ally Rogers is a North Carolina artist and sculptor, who creates mixed-media sculptures, which have increased in scale since she began in the 1980s. In 1984, she completed her BFA in ceramics, at The Center for Creative StudiesCollege of Art and Design in Detroit. She then took up glassblowing, which led to her MFA from Kent State University to be focused on glass. Her sculpture, “Messenger,” displayed outside the Appleton Museum since 1999, was her first large public piece. What inspired you to create “Messenger”? “Messenger” was the first outdoor public sculpture I made. It was my first introduction to the whole procedure for designing and fabricating public art pieces, which I have now been doing for over 20 years. I envisioned it as a highly abstracted figure holding a circular bronze disc meant to represent the world of art. It is a piece meant to welcome [all types of] people; the “Messenger” stands with an open-armed gesture toward the new wing in the museum. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making this sculpture? I worked on “Messenger” entirely on my own. I became a certified welder back in the 1980s, so I have always done all my fabrication and installations. I like my sculptures to be made of durable materials. I used stainless steel, cast glass, granite and

Throughout your career, have you found being a female sculptor has made things more difficult? It’s been an interesting journey. There are obviously a lot of women sculptors, but I think there are not a lot working in large-scale steel fabrication. There are even fewer women doing large public art jobs. The field is definitely changing, though. Initially, when I bought materials from some suppliers and fabrication shops, they were very male-dominated, and in some ways I had to prove myself to them. By now, I have decadeslong relationships with several local machine shops and steel suppliers. Theoretically, as women, we shouldn’t have to prove ourselves that way, but if we do, I’m going to prove it! What is a key moment in your life that brought you to where you are today? Creating the sculpture for the Appleton Museum was an interesting turning point for me,

because it took the nominal idea at the back of my mind, “One day I would like to do a public piece,” and brought it to actualization. I have obviously learned so much more since then, but that was a great gift to me because it introduced me to this very important aspect of my art life.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Vanessa Scott is Museum Specialist at the Appleton Museum of Art, College of Central Florida. Growing up in South Africa, Italy, and England, Scott has international art and theatre backgrounds. She holds degrees in Theatre and Performance, as well as Photography. Joining the Appleton in 2018, she is the developer, designer, and content creator of the Appleton’s free mobile app, which won the Gold Medal Award at the 2020 Southeastern Museums Conference.

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AUTHORS CONNIE ROSE DANA OLMSTEAD ESMIRNA CARABALLO FANNIE OCASIO JACQUELIN KORPELA JEANNE HENNINGSEN JODI ANDERSON KATERINA MACKENZIE KHADÍJIH MITCHELL-POLK LAURA FLORES LAUREN DEBICK MANAL FAKHOURY SHEREESE FLOYD SYDNEY RAFFERTY WENDY MESTAS

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

JULY 18, 2022